Amarillo residents petition city drainage fee

Amarillo residents are petitioning against a drainage fee that appears on city water bills every month.

Bill Sumerford applied for the petition back in January of 2013 and claims the City of Amarillo City Commission made the decision to add the drainage fee without allowing residents to vote. He said they not only affect property taxes, but the wallets of Amarillo citizens.

"What are property taxes for? They're for drainage, they're for sewers, they're for streets and police," said Sumerford. "Along comes the city and adds another drainage fee on top of the fee they're already collecting and that's why we started the petition.

City officials claim the decision was made to change poor drainage in the city without raising taxes.

"We try to keep our general property taxes low and the state allows us a drainage utility to be established by the city," said Amarillo City Attorney Marcus W. Norris. "The city commission found that that was a good approach."

For the petition to be considered by the city, 3,920 signatures must be validated by the city secretary. According to Norris, there have already been some invalid voters on the petition.

"We've already found several Canyon residents and so the secretary must go through and check each signature to make sure it's a valid voter of Amarillo."

Signature verification isn't the only setback to the petition. Norris said the petition also faces legal issues.

"Financial management is entrusted by the charter and by state law to the city commission, they make the financial decision," said Norris. "For that reason we believe that there may be some legal hurdles before his petition could ever be qualified to go to the ballot."

Proponents of the petition said they're confident the issue will make it to a special election in November.